Warren Buffett once said, “Keep all your eggs in one basket, but watch that basket closely.” He has practiced what he preaches for the most part. Nearly all of the billionaire’s net worth is in one stock: Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A 0.02%) (BRK.B 0.02%).
Berkshire itself doesn’t keep all of its eggs in one basket, though. The conglomerate owns over 50 stocks. But those investments aren’t as diversified as you might think. A whopping 75% of Buffett’s Berkshire portfolio is invested in just five stocks. Here they are — including the one that’s made him the most money.
Buffett’s top five
Buffett likes businesses that have proven themselves over time. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that his top five holdings in Berkshire’s portfolio are all household names.
|Stock||Shares Owned||Percent of Total Portfolio|
|Apple (AAPL -0.76%)||915,560,382||41.5%|
|Bank of America (NYSE: BAC)||1,032,852,006||10.7%|
|Chevron (NYSE: CVX)||167,353,771||8.2%|
|American Express (NYSE: AXP)||151,610,700||7.9%|
|The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO)||400,000,000||6.9%|
If you only look at Berskhire’s 13F filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), you won’t get the complete picture of its holdings. New England Asset Management (NEAM), an investment firm that’s a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, also owns quite a few stocks. The numbers on the above table for Apple, Bank of America, and Chevron include the shares owned by NEAM.
His biggest moneymaker
Determining which of Buffett’s top five stocks has made him the most money is easier said than done. For one thing, we don’t know exactly when he bought the stocks. Berkshire’s and NEAM’s SEC filings only narrow the purchases down to a specific quarter. That means we also don’t know Buffett’s specific cost basis for each stock. However, we can make some pretty good guesses to figure out which of the legendary investor’s top five stocks have been most profitable for him.
Let’s start with Berkshire’s biggest holding by far — Apple. Buffett even called the company one of Berkshire’s “four giants” in his letter to shareholders last year. But Apple wasn’t always one of those giants. Buffett first bought nearly 129.4 million shares of the tech company in the first quarter of 2016.Since the beginning of that quarter, Apple stock has skyrocketed nearly 490%.
What complicates matters, though, is that Berkshire has bought and sold shares of Apple throughout the years. The company also conducted a 4-for-1 stock split in August 2020. However, we can still get a good feel for how big of a winner Apple has been for Buffett. His heaviest buying of Apple occurred between 2016 and 2018. Berkshire has held onto most of its position since then, with the stock nearly quadrupling in value.
Apple’s performance and Berkshire’s massive stake in the company allow us to eliminate some contenders. For example, Buffett initiated a position in Chevron in the fourth quarter of 2020. Although the big oil company has delivered a total return of nearly 170% since the beginning of that period, that’s a much smaller gain than Buffett has seen with Apple.
Similarly, Berkshire opened a new position in Bank of America in the third quarter of 2017 (after exiting a previous stake several years earlier). The bank stock has delivered a total return of less than 70% since then.
That leaves two of Buffett’s long-term holdings. He bought a big chunk of shares in American Express in the fourth quarter of 2000, and there was some significant buying and selling in subsequent years. However, it doesn’t appear that Buffett’s American Express investment has paid off as significantly as Apple has.
Buffett’s relationship with Coca-Cola goes back even further. He initiated a position in the food and beverage giant in the fourth quarter of 1998. Coca-Cola has been a big winner for the legendary investor. Still, though, Apple has delivered an even greater gain.
Staying at the top
Apple reigns as Buffett’s biggest moneymaker (outside of Berkshire itself). Can it stay at the top? I think so.
It’s not surprising in the least that Apple was one of only four stocks Buffett bought in the latest quarter. He loves the company’s business. Pretty much anytime Apple goes on sale because of a pullback, Buffett is likely to scoop up more shares.
I don’t see Apple’s iPhone ecosystem losing steam anytime soon. If anything, the company could gain momentum. A recent patent filing could hint that a folding iPhone is on the way. Apple also has tremendous opportunities in augmented reality. My prediction is that the stock will continue to make the most money for Buffett for a long time to come.
American Express is an advertising partner of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. Bank of America is an advertising partner of The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. Keith Speights has positions in Apple, Bank of America, and Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Apple, Bank of America, and Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2024 $47.50 calls on Coca-Cola, long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple, and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.